Nepal is a champion country for fair recruitment, but on paper only, observers sayMigrant workers are still paying a huge amount for recruitment fees despite laws to prevent such expenses.
Nepal is considered one of the champion countries of “Objective 6” of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, commonly known as GCM.
The objective is to facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguarding conditions that ensure decent work.
However, the reality is different.
The data from Recruitment Advisor, a global recruitment and employment review platform shows, many migrant workers still pay exorbitant amounts of recruitment fees while going for foreign employment.
“The average fee paid to the recruitment agencies for securing a foreign job by 2,244 Nepalis was around Rs100,000,” said Sunil Neupane, South Asia coordinator of Recruitment Advisor, speaking at a programme in Kathmandu on Monday. “The project was launched in Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in 2017.”
One of the conditions under “Objective 6” says, “Improve regulations on public and private recruitment agencies in order to align them with international guidelines and prohibit recruiters and employers from charging recruitment fees to migrant workers in order to prevent debt bondage, exploitation and forced labour.”
Observers say that Nepal has laws, only on paper, which say Nepali migrant workers do not need to pay more than Rs10,000 as a service fee to private recruitment agencies.
The highly ambitious ‘free-visa, free ticket’ provision was introduced in 2015 aiming to make the employer bear the recruitment cost in order to prevent workers from falling into debt bondage by taking loans at a high-interest rate to finance their recruitment.
“The platform was launched with objectives to connect aspiring migrant workers with decent recruitment agencies, promote ethical recruitment as well as provide information about laws of the destination countries,” Neupane added.
Hari Bahadur Thapa, who represented the National Network for Safe Migration, an umbrella organisation of 32 civil society organisations in the country working in the field of labour migration and development, said Nepal may not be a champion country in terms of fair recruitment.
The labour agreement between Nepal and Malaysia in 2018 had a provision that exempted workers from the charges as the Malaysian employer is supposed to bear all the expenses of recruiting workers.
“That too has not been implemented effectively,” according to Thapa.
“Recruitment fee is one of the most important aspects for fair recruitment, which has only increased in Nepal recently,” Thapa said.
Though some employers in Malaysia have started taking workers under the zero cost provision, many Nepali migrant workers paid around Rs200,000 to secure the jobs, he said.
Labour migration to Malaysia has increased steeply in recent months.
According to the data of the Department of Foreign Employment, Malaysia has become the top labour destination among Nepalis with 125,670 new labour permits issued in the first five months of the current fiscal year.
Rajendra Bhandari, president of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies, said only a few employers provide the service fee to the recruitment agencies.
“The current provision must be changed by allowing recruiting agencies to collect a service fee from the migrant workers–equivalent to their one month’s salary,” said Bhandari. “There are many issues in the existing Foreign Employment Act which need an amendment for the benefit of workers as well as recruiters.”
Neha Choudhary, national project coordinator, Migrant Rights and Decent Work, ILO Nepal, said they have started working with the Central Bureau of Statistics to conduct the recruitment cost survey on the national level.
“The similar survey carried out in Bangladesh showed that it takes a migrant worker around 17 months to recover their recruitment fees,” said Choudhary. “We hope the survey results, once published, will help Nepali authorities to discuss appropriate policy with labour destination countries.”